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Monday, January 07, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"It’s not too late for yet one more 2012 year-in-review report, and today’s latest addition comes from Nielsen, which examined how Americans have been consuming content over the course of the past year. The report found that of the 289 million U.S. TV owners, 119 million own four or more television sets, making TV still the device to beat when it comes to watching and recording programs, among other things. The TV-owning audience can also be further split up by how they access their programing and what sort of things they use their TV for, besides live viewing ... However, when it comes to how Americans are consuming media, it’s TV that’s still far in the lead. Traditional TV viewing eats up over six days (days! or 144 hours, 54 minutes) worth of time per month, the report found. Everything else – from computers to smartphones – is a much narrower slice of that overall pie ... Computers also had a massive footprint in the U.S. with 212 million of the 278 million internet users active online in 2012. 94% of computer owners accessed social media in 2012, says Nielsen. In terms of time spent on the computer, 20.1% was used for social networking and blogs – the most of any other category." (Techcrunch)


"The 113th Congress has just been sworn in, and it's a safe bet that it will be no more engaged with foreign policy, and no more competent to serve as a useful check on the Obama administration, than was its predecessor. This is mostly a prerogative of the opposition, and congressional Republicans have paid remarkably little attention to President Barack Obama's conduct of foreign affairs. Last month, they roused themselves to block confirmation of a United Nations treaty on the rights of the disabled, which apparently posed a grave threat to the nation's sovereignty. In recent weeks, of course, the GOP has lashed itself into a fury over the September 11 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, laboring to gin up a tragic mishap into a full-fledged scandal. But on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, China, and the war on terror -- not much. Really, it's been a blessing. It has not always been so, of course. While foreign policy, unlike domestic policy, does not normally depend on legislation or congressional authorization, thus giving far greater latitude to the executive branch, presidents have often had to face stiff resistance from Congress. President Lyndon Johnson provoked a storm of opposition on Capitol Hill when he escalated the Vietnam War; William Fulbright, a fellow Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), impaneled a series of hearings that showcased devastating critiques of Johnson's conduct of the war. Politicians on both sides of the aisle believed that Johnson had hoodwinked them into supporting the Gulf of Tonkin resolution enabling the escalation; many of them vowed never again to automatically defer to the president's authority to conduct foreign policy. In the mid-1970s, Democratic Senator Frank Church conducted spectacular hearings into the CIA's history of assassinations. Republicans fought President Jimmy Carter every step of the way on his human rights policy and support for left-leaning regimes in Latin America. When Ronald Reagan reversed Carter's policies in order to back anti-Communist insurgents, a Democratic-controlled Congress passed the Boland Amendment banning military aid to the Nicaraguan Contras. It was this prohibition that Reagan tried to evade with the elaborate subterfuge known as Iran-Contra -- which was itself fully exposed to the public in the Senate's weeks-long Iran-Contra hearings that made Oliver North a household name. Had President Richard Nixon's impeachment not been fresh in everyone's minds, Democrats might well have moved to impeach Reagan over the lies required to conduct a secret foreign policy. The election of 1994, which swept conservatives to power, marked the demise of the centrist tradition in foreign (and domestic) policy. Jesse Helms, the new Republican chairman of the SFRC, wanted to get rid of the U.N., which he did his best to defund, and did not much like foreign countries (though he did his bestto keep Rhodesia in white hands)." (James Traub/ForeignPolicy)


"Many of the larger Middle East economies, Egypt and Iraq in particular, also fit here. Both countries have enormous potential but far more downside, given growing social discontent and political violence and a structurally troubled political environment. Longer term, even much more stable countries like Saudi Arabia belong in this category. Thailand belongs here thanks to poor existing governance against the backdrop of troubled and uncertain succession. In Peru, Ollanta Humala has been effective in a high-growth environment, but the risk of a return to serious populism and nationalism as life gets more difficult is larger than most appreciate. South Africa, where leadership has deteriorated steadily at every step from Mandela, is part of this group. In 2013, we are likely to see the rise of economic populism and a decidedly negative trajectory for the country (more on that with risk #10). Then there’s China, where doubling down on the present development model to safeguard stability makes us more confident on domestic economic growth--but far more worried that foreign companies and investors won’t benefit from it. The investment environment will remain opaque and more oriented toward benefiting domestic players, as China's relative power balance vis-a-vis international actors becomes more apparent. Uncertainty over China's short- to medium-term trajectory is an order of magnitude greater than that of any other major global economy. C - backsliding. These are essentially “submerging markets,” countries that are both under-performing and generating unacceptable levels of political risk. Absent effective governance and facing significant economic challenges, these markets don't deserve the benefits they draw from being lumped in the emerging market category--and should be flagged accordingly. The most notable of these countries is Russia, where opportunities are diminishing on pretty much every front but strategic resource development. President Vladimir Putin's popularity is starting to wane, but there’s no change in his hold on power nor any willingness to reconsider his statist, highly centralized, and staggeringly corrupt approach to economic development. External relations are becoming more challenging with both Europe and the United States, and capital flight continues apace. It's not just hard to consider Russia a 'BRIC', it's hard to justifiably categorize it as a truly emerging market." (Iam Bremer)



"It began late in the afternoon of March 13, 1954. The great Battle of Dien Bien Phu had finally begun. 105mm and 75mm howitzers and 120mm mortars rained down from above. Ten thousand French troops were defending a valley ringed by hills crawling with close to 30,000 Vietnamese. The French commander was Christian de Castries, the flamboyant general who had named the nine outposts after his various mistresses: Beatrice, Huguette, Elaine, Isabelle, and so on. Most soldiers in the French Foreign Legion were German; the officers were all French. The first to die was major Paul Pegot, who called for artillery support barely 200 yards from his command post at Beatrice. A Viet Minh artillery round hit him as he put down the telephone, killing him instantly along with his entire staff. Another shell tore open the chest and ripped the arms off Lieutenant Colonel Gaucher, who had rushed in to take over. Their two leaders gone, the men had to fight on their own. All but 200 out of 750 died. They took 600 Vietnamese with them ... Well-meaning superpowers cannot win faraway wars. Battlefield victories by the good guys are followed by the establishment of authoritarian, elite-led local mafias, as is the case in Iraq and Afghanistan. The neocons and the Israeli lobby led the cheerleading while Uncle Sam yet again spilled American blood to overthrow one of the Middle East’s few secular leaders. Iraq remains in far worse shape than it was under Saddam Hussein. In Afghanistan we have wasted billions while enriching a mafia close to president Karzai, a man so crooked he makes a pretzel look straight. The pompous bores that blow hot air over the airwaves and in print for the five deadly sinners—CBS, NBC, ABC, The New York Times, and the Washington Post—continue to rattle sabers for democracy in faraway places. US interventions that resulted in regime change since the Cold War ended—in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya—have made the world a far more dangerous place. The next domino to fall will be Syria—it will fall to chaos and al-Qaeda, that is. And Uncle Sam will have one more failed state to deal with, thanks to the neocon and Saudi propaganda, his inability to learn from history, and his lack of common sense. Poor Uncle Sam. Can’t someone force him to sit down and study Fredrik Logevall’s Embers of War? It’s about the fall of an empire and the making of America’s Vietnam. Make him read it again and again, then test him on what he learned. And then force him never to read or watch anything that the five deadly sinners print or say." (Taki)

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